Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Institut für Europäische Ethnologie | Termine | Institutskolloquium im Sommersemester 2019

Institutskolloquium im Sommersemester 2019

  • Wann 18.06.2019 von 14:00 bis 16:00
  • Wo Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Raum 0007
  • iCal

Re-imagining detoxification beyond the molecular register

Nicholas Shapiro (UCLA)




Historians, anthropologists, natural scientists, activists, and many others have been documenting for decades not only how myriad industrial pollutants are unevenly suffusing landscapes and lives around the world, but how the conventional avenues of detoxification are often tragedies or farces. Toxic chemical relations exceed the rubrics of toxicant categorization, regulation, banning, and replacement that hold a monopoly on the imaginative horizons of chemical environmental change. I frame this talk around a single chemical that is the most common pollutant in the air where North Americans spend the vast majority of their time (>90%): indoors. I'll argue, framing this story around a single compound, a framing inherited from science and governance, is fundamental to it never reaching resolution. After outlining what I see as the intrinsic issues of the established means of detoxification, I'll discuss one approach to rethinking how materials and relations become toxic in order to rethink how to detoxify. I'll focus on projects that seek to realize alternative thermodynamic imaginaries (specifically non-electric thermodynamics) as a means of addressing toxic issues upstream at the point where there are crosscutting benefits to climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation.



Nicholas Shapiro is an incoming Assistant Professor in UCLA’s Institute of Society and Genetics. His research leverages interdisciplinary collaborations to interrogate the limits and possibilities of environmental change. He initiated and co-founded the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) to foster accountability in US federal environmental stewardship practices. Shapiro was awarded the 2016 Cultural Horizons prize for the best paper in Cultural Anthropology and his work developing openly licensed toxics monitoring and remediation hardware was awarded the Society for the Social Study of Science’s highest honor for “making and doing” in 2017.